If you are a fan of popular US television, the chances are good you have admired Eduardo Castro's flair for unique designs at some point over his amazing 30 year career. From Miami Vice in the 1980's and on through to more recent hits such as Judging Amy, Ugly Betty, Eastwick and Castle, Eduardo has set the style and tone of these shows.
His work on Ugly Betty and the mini-series 'Elvis' resulted in him winning the Costume Designers Guild Award 4 years in a row from 2006 to 2009.
Eduardo's Emmy and Bafta nominated designs have led him to perhaps the most inventive and imaginative TV show of them all, Once Upon A Time. The show comprises 2 unique worlds where his full creative force can be unleashed.
Eduardo was kind enough recently to sit down and answer some questions for Once Upon A Fan, giving us a unique behind the scenes look at the design process on the hit ABC series.
You've been sharing your beautiful designs with us for over thirty years now, what was the first design project you ever took on?
The first design assignment I took on in Television was the third and fourth season of “Miami Vice”(1985-87) when famed designer Milena Canonero approached me to collaborate with her. It is where I learned to be very fast and began to develop an eye for “High Fashion” It also involved shopping trips to Paris, Milan and London!
My first assignment for the Big Screen happened in 1989 on the film “Bird On A Wire” with Goldie Hawn and Mel Gibson for director John Badham. It was filmed in Vancouver where we now shoot “Once Upon A Time” What I remember was that throughout my time on that project it never rained in Vancouver!!! When we shot the pilot of “Once”, it rained every day!
Your designs on Once Upon a Time vary a great deal, what has been the easiest outfit to put together and what has been the most elaborate and difficult?
The easiest costume to design had to be Snow White’s Wedding Dress, it was the first costume that was designed for the pilot and was approved immediately by the network and in fact set the tone for the way the look of the series was to be. It was modern in cut and extravagant because of the feathered yardage from Paris. We fitted and constructed it in Los Angeles along with “The Evil Queen’s” Costume; all other costumes subsequently were constructed in Vancouver.
The most elaborate costume has to be “Rumplestitlskin’s”. The first costume we came up with was rejected by the network, although it was very beautiful, it did not communicate the danger and mystique of the character. It was the first costume we made in Vancouver, but because the schedule kept changing we had an additional two weeks to come up with a new version. It came about when one of my assistants brought in real baby alligator skins that were very creepy, and we immediately draped a sleeve, and it looked amazing.
My cutter fitter, Mitchell MacKay put together a doublet from the drawing I did and, the rest came together very easily, though time consuming with so much hand work and aging it probably was one of our more costly pieces. The aging process included grinding metallic beads and bits of sand onto the leather and then painting.
Below: The Final Approved Design For Rumplestiltskin
The most difficult costume was by far the “Siren” Costume. It had to look good on two actresses and had to come out of the water and then back into the water and had to do so many things. We started with one sketch that was approved then thrown out and the fabrics kept changing, we went from Lavender stretch metallic to white iridescent, to silver and finally ended up with a very inexpensive white stretch velvet, which was embellished with beaded embroidery. In the first fittings we actually had to take Ginny into a shower to test the fabric, it had to cling and float at the same time. In the end it worked out very well.
Can you give us any insight as to your style decision to make Regina's costumes have a more cold, industrial feel vs. Rumplestiltskin's more natural and organic feel?
I am inspired by the writing and my conversations with the creator-writers Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, we have various meetings that set the tone with where we want to go. Also the fabrics speak to me, like Snow’s White's feathered dress, I continued to use feathers in black and red also imported from Paris. The fabrics in general for Evil Queen are of the highest quality embellished silks and velvets, leather and heavy beading add to a “Luxe” feel.
“Rumple” came about all by instinct; none of the costumes were over rationalized I went simply with my gut feeling most of the time. When my assistant brought me the baby Alligator skins, there was something very creepy about them, so we kept that tone through his designs, we added fur for his final sword fight with Charming and in his episode with “Belle’ we made his costumes rather elegant and were made of silk and brocades.
Below: Rumplestiltskin took on a more elegant tone in episodes like "Price of Gold" & "Skin Deep"
Do the extreme weather conditions on the set provide an extra level of challenge when choosing your final design pieces?
Yes indeed. With Jennifer Morrison we really had to develop her leather jackets especially for the cold and we designed a black leather jacket with shearling to keep her warm. For Rumplestiltskin in the finale, we added a fur lined cape for his sword fight with “Charming” so he would not freeze.
On the pilot when Charming kisses Snow, she was wearing a silk chiffon sleeveless dress in her coffin and that scene was shot high up in a forest and it actually started to snow! In general we have to be prepared to shoot in the rain! That is our biggest challenge, and it’s never going to not rain in Vancouver!
We all have our favorite OUAT designs, but it's increasingly hard to pick a favorite! What has been your absolute favorite design in Season One?
I have a few favorites; obviously Evil Queen’s final costume is one of my favorites. One of my least favorites was Evil Queen’s Traveling Costume used in the Hansel and Gretel Episode worn with a hat. However this costumes seems to be a “Fan” Favorite, The hair was unfortunate and made Lana look like a “Drag Queen” I later re worked the same costume without the hat and added Yak hair to the bodice and a Coque feather collar and then it became one of my favorites.
But my all time favorite and most successful costume has to be Rumpletitskin’s basic costume made of baby alligator skins and leather. It did everything it had to do and made Robert Carlyle embrace the character to its supreme heights.
Below: Final Design for The Evil Queen in 1x09 - True North
Who is your favorite character to design for currently?
All of them! But really who can resist designing for “The Evil Queen”!
Which classic Fairy tale character do you hope to see in the future so that you have the opportunity to design for them?
I would love for Malificent to return, as I think I could really improve her design with a fantastic Headdress! I only had two days to create the horned headpiece and it seemed a little “Mingy” she deserves a much more glamorous headdress.
As far as a new character is concerned, I just read the first episode of Season 2 and there is a great new character I cannot discuss, but I would love to do a great villain like Captain Hook.
If you could dress any one person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
As someone I wish I had had the opportunity to design for that is no longer with us, it would have to be Ingrid Bergman; every character she played was unique and real. In fact I based a lot of her “tone’ in design on a film she was in called “The Visit” both Lana Parilla and I felt there was a lot of “Regina” in that performance.
As far as someone living, it would have to be Meryl Streep for obvious reasons; I almost had the opportunity of working with her a few times, But timing never worked out.
Do you listen to any certain music to find inspiration when working on your designs?
I always have music in my office and the workrooms, I listen to all kinds of music, Film scores are very good to set the tone. I also think it’s important to have “fun” background music that makes people happy, that included anything for Janet Jackson to Salsa Music,
I have a very happy crew and they love it when we pump out some Old School Disco especially at the end of the day!
Finally, the fans would love to hear about the process/inspiration behind the classic Rumplestiltskin outfit (alligator look jacket, tall boots, etc.) and the classic 'Red Charming' outfit from the Pilot/Finale?
Both of these costumes really came together when one of my assistants, Kristen Bond came in with some great fabrics. She was responsible for finding the baby alligator skins for Rumple along with the fantastic John Fluevog boots, to which we added the Lace up wraps that takes Robert Carlyle 20 minutes to lace up, I promised him zippers for Season Two. Anyway once w had the alligator skins we proceeded to make Rumple a Rock Star and make him the “Sexiest” Rumple ever!
The “Red” Charming Doublet came about at the very last second. Josh was cast and we kept thinking Blue then we realized that blue was not going the have the punch we needed, we at one point were designing a Black look. Then finally we decided on red, but it was either going to be red leather or suede. When Kristen came in with time most amazing piece of Swarofsky embroidered panel she put in on a mannequin on top of some of the suede and I was knocked out by how stunning it was, and I was so afraid that this Prince Costume was not going to work until I saw that.
I also so do many drawings that are given to my assistants and that helps them in their search for the “right’ fabrics, I am so happy that I am blessed with and extraordinary workroom an costumers that really make me shine, to them I am very thankful!
Many thanks to Eduardo for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with us. Costume Designs are reproduced with the permission of Eduardo Castro. Please contact us directly before using elsewhere.